The Montreal Canadiens beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. In a surprising upset, the 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens knocked the 5-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins out of playoff contention. There is no doubt Carey Price was a huge factor in this series win, but the rest of the Montreal Canadiens didn’t disappoint.
Carey Price and Canadiens Defeat Penguins
Price, the Canadiens ultimate defender, lived up to his reputation around the league. The netminder ended the series with a .937 save percentage, a 2.19 goals-against-average, and a shutout against the Penguins. Price showed up for his team, and in return, they shut down the Penguins top-six forwards for him.
His stellar goaltending boosted the confidence of every player in front of him. Carey Price faced 136 shots from a high-powered Penguins offence and stopped 129 of them. While it is no surprise to see Price outstanding play, the defence in front of him is a little bit of a different story.
There is a reason Montreal was ranked 24th coming into this unusual postseason. The offence was unexceptional and the blueliners didn’t do much in front of the net throughout the regular season. But, the first round of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers showed a different team. One with a fire underneath them, desperately wanting to prove they belonged in Toronto. And, they did.
Sidney Crosby and the playoff phenom Jake Guentzel were held to just three points each on the series. Trade deadline acquisition Jason Zucker and linemate Conor Sheary tallied just two. And, the latter half of the Penguin’s dynamic duo, Evgeni Malkin put up just one point throughout the series. Montreal’s defence did the improbable and put a stop to the Penguin’s high-scorers.
Captain Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, who scored two game-winners in the series, and top-pair defender Ben Chiarot were not only able to stop Pittsburgh’s offence but were able to provide a little themselves. Each tallied a much-needed goal on the series, while continuing to block shots, battle in the corners, and protect the net. Montreal’s defence played to their highest ability and showed the league that this really is anyone’s year.
While Price and his defence had the biggest impact on this series, they elevated their offence, as well. Their top-line wingers, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher were fairly silent. But, young players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki scored their first playoffs goals, and in Kotkaniemi’s case, his second. Going forward, they are going to have to produce a little more offensively, if they want to make an actual run for the Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh’s Lackluster Effort
The Penguins lacked energy in the final game of this series as the appeared to be checked out after Game 3. They got very little going offensively, and their defence wasn’t enough to stop Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen from scoring the game-winning goal.
Though Pittsburgh’s goaltending switched from two-time Stanley Cup winner Matt Murray to All-Star netminder Tristan Jarry gave them a chance with some strong saves, the Penguins couldn’t find the back of the net. This will be the first year since 2006 the Pittsburgh Penguins will miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
What was expected to be an easy series win has ended with the renowned Pittsburgh Penguins leaving the bubble. The Montreal Canadiens will advance to the play the first seed in the Eastern Conference. If they want to advance, they will have to keep shutting down dynamic offences, as they will be playing either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Philadelphia Flyers in a best of seven series. Price will have to continue making incredible stops and encouraging the play of his teammates with his own. Montreal’s offence will have to step it up a little.
The Pittsburgh Penguins now have a shot at the first overall pick in the NHL Draft, which will be determined on August 10.